An ecosystem at risk is both vulnerable and resilient to natural stress and human induced modifications. Discuss this statement. • Relationships between natural and human-induced modifications and the vulnerability + resilience of ecosystems at risk • Issues related to the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems at risk • Case study (GBR) with illustrative examples
• Sustained, logical and cohesive response
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is an ecosystem at risk that is both vulnerable and resilient to change. Natural stress and human induced modifications affect the functioning of the ecosystem, with short and long term impacts. Extreme weather, erosion and storm waves are natural stresses that put pressure on the ecosystem while human-induced changes such as tourism, overpopulation and the result of industries are also prevalent. The reef is located off the North-East coast of Queensland, extending from just South of Papua New Guinea (8º South) to just North of Fraser Island (24º South). It consists of multiple reefs, covering a total of 344 000 km². The extent of the reef has made it difficult to survey all impacts of natural and human stress. As a fragile ecosystem, the GBR is prone to change as a result of biophysical interactions. Biophysical interactions constantly transpire as seen in the geomorphologic, hydrological and atmospheric processes such as weathering and storm waves. Chemical weathering is the most common form of weathering/erosion, with the calcium carbonate being subject to collapse (from chemical reactions). The combination of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and rainwater forms carbonic acid deposited onto the limestone, collapsing it. In contrast, the flow and force of storm waves is responsible for the removal/movement of large coral pieces (transportation) and its placement in other parts of the reef (deposition). Storms (according the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: GBRMPA) have caused 34% of coral mortality recorded between...
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